Get Lean

Unlike what most people think – you can get ‘leaner’ eating just about anything… you just have to make sure you fit some simple ‘rules’:


  • Eat less food (calories) than your body needs (includes daily energy requirement as well as workout requirements)
  • Eat an adequate amount of proteins. Rule of thumb for ACTIVE individuals with moderate body fat levels is ~ 1.25 – 1.5gms/lb body wt. If you are inactive, or if your bodyweight is significantly higher due to fat mass – base requirements on your LEAN mass
  • Fuel your workouts adequately – they are responsible for the retention of lean mass as you diet. So it is stupid to cut calories from around your workouts…. If you don’t want to eat before/ after, then eat/ fuel your workouts directly with a during workout energy source
  • If you suffer from unremitting hunger then eat foods with ‘bulk’ – vegetables, fiber, and fruits. All of which are full of nutrients but not calories.
  • There is no real conclusive evidence to suggest that increased meal frequency is better than eating 3 times a day. Despite popular myth it doesn’t ‘stoke the metabolic fire’. What it does do though is that it prevents you from getting overly hungry – so you are more likely to stick to your diet…. But if you are someone who likes big meals – then by all means eat less frequently.
  • Drink lots of water (the old favourite)
  • Don’t constantly ‘starve’ (at least not long term… and more so if you are a female). Short periods of low calorie dieting is ok, but long terms low calorie dieting, especially when combined with lots of moderate intensity cardio, will set you up for odd physiological / hormonal responses (which are ‘biologically programmed into female energy balance responses) and can also cause psychological distress that will the ‘yo-yo’ weight problems
  • Proportioning and/or eliminating food group(s) while trying to get lean is very much an individual (and I stress, un-necessary) preference, ie what works for one person does not have to work for the next person. Advice is invaluable here – but don’t think you have to do without fats/ carbs or cake if you are dieting. ;)

A Word on the Keto Diet

Keto diets can ‘train’ the body to burn ketones/ fats as energy… They basically much in ‘changing the enzyme concentrations’ in tissues and so your brain ‘switches over’ to ketone use (instead of primarily being glucose). This is that ‘keto brain’ people talk about in the first few days . It is as their body up regulates the correct enzymes in the neural tissue. But they don’t burn MORE fat nor do they magically ‘burn fat’ if you are not at calorie deficit.

The reason why the keto diet works in the general public is because it is more satiating than many diets. It also increases protein intake which generally has the effect of ‘tricking’ them into eating less as they feel fuller for longer …


Heavy resistance training is what allows you to look pretty once the dieting is done…. Light weight/ high rep work is not going to have the same effect on lean mass retention… so use it with caution

  • Don’t over train – will have opposite of desired effect – adequate rest essential
  • Add cardio as you require it in order to help increase calorie output – but you don’t have to do 3 hrs every day….
  • Include as much ‘incidental’ movement as possible, esp if you have a sedentary job

A quick summary of a few issues with Fat and the interaction with Training and Diet

There are three basic types of fat:

  • Upper body subcutaneous fat
  • Upper body visceral fat (around your vital organs under your abdominal muscles)
  • Lower body gluteofemoral fat (legs, mainly thighs and butt)

Women have more gluteofemoral fat while men have more subcutaneous abdominal and visceral deposits.

Visceral fat lies underneath the abdominal muscles and has a high turnover rate. It is very active fat, readily broken down releasing free fatty acids into the bloodstream. It is ‘dieted off’ more easily than other fat types, as long there is a calorie deficit. Visceral fat is responsible for a greater risk of cardiovascular disease, insulin resistance, and high blood triglycerides.

Subcutaneous fat is not released as fatty acids as easily as visceral fat. It is harder to ‘diet away’, but it WILL shift eventually…

Gluteofemoral fat is hardest to lose – and it is linked to hormonal responses in females secondary to puberty….

BUT — This fat CAN be shifted faster… and it is all to do with the receptors on the cells….

Adrenaline and nor-adrenaline (catecholamines) are the hormones responsible in getting fatty acids released, and they attach to the alpha and beta receptors of cells throughout the body.

There are 2 types of alpha receptors – 1 & 2

  • Activation of alpha 1 causes breakdown of fat (lypolysis)
  • Activation of the alpha 2 receptor is anti-lipolytic.

The problem for women particularly, is the number of alpha 2 receptors found in lower body fat is 50% greater than anywhere else. It has been found though that increased levels of adrenaline stimulate the beta-adrenoceptors and thereby partially overcome the inhibitory effect of the alpha 2-adrenoceptors. This can occur with intense exercise in the face of low insulin / low oestrogen environments.

PLEASE NOTE: There are also some supplements that block alpha 2 receptors and taking it prior to cardio can be positive for an increase in lipolysis, especially in the lower body areas.


Most supplements are poppy cock…. and they will end up costing you more than it is worth

Creatine is beneficial in both gaining lean mass, as well as helping to maintain energy while losing weight

Never underestimate the wonderful effects of caffeine as an exercise stimulant and appetite suppressant

Get adequate EFA’s in your diet, and supplement with fish oils to ensure correct balance of omega-3 and omega-6 fats

Get advise on whether you require other supplements (ALA, creatine, calcium etc)

Get advise if thinking of using ‘commercial’ fat burners – all are not created equal (or effective) and can interact with medication adversely.

Putting a Few points together to do things Less Painfully. …

Set calorie intake/ goals based on your EXTRA FAT (determines your maximal rate of fat loss)… And a handy equation for this is here:

A limit on the maximum energy transfer rate from the human fat store in hypophagia is deduced from experimental data of underfed subjects maintaining moderate activity levels and is found to have a value of (290 +/- 25) kJ/kg d. A dietary restriction which exceeds the limited capability of the fat store to compensate for the energy deficiency results in an immediate decrease in the fat free mass (FFM). In cases of a less severe dietary deficiency, the FFM will not be depleted.

Alpert SS. J Theor Biol. 2005 Mar 7;233(1):1-13

This determines how many calories your fat mass can provide/ day at a maximum. e.g: If you are 160 # and 25% fat, then this is 40# fat and you can create a 1260 cal/ day rate of fat loss

Then work out how much you need to eat to maintain your weight. Typically a moderately active person will require 13-15 x their weight in pounds in calories to maintain. So to use the example above –> if the 160# person maintained their weight on ~ 2400 cals… Then they could get away with short periods of time on very low calories – about 1150-1200 cals/ day

During these periods – Eat sufficient protein to meet requirements as based on your activity and muscle mass. Thus, at 160#, 1.25-1.5 x weight = 185-240g protein…

To fill in the rest of the calories:

If you are particularly insulin resistant then drop carbs low and get remaining calories from fats. If you like carbs – drop fats lower….

If you want to take maximal advantage of the thermogenic effect of protein then eat more protein and not much in the way of carbs/ fats (I would advise you to include one meal of higher fat protein – eg: salmon -to keep things ‘happy’… and still include vegetables too)…

Supplement as required: A multivitamin, some fish oils, calcium/ Mag/ Vit D, potassium, and caffeine…

Weight train HARD and HEAVY…. I would aim for 3 x a week of full body work (more at a very high calorie deficit is stupid).

Add a bit of cardio (depending)…. I wouldn’t add any REALLY intense formal cardio, especially if you have an active job…. I would just try to walk a lot/ stay active…. If you are seated on your butt all day then adding some long walks wouldn’t hurt…

Have a treat meal or higher carb day about every 10 days (depends on how fat you are – if you are LEAN – then have them more often… if you are a real fatty – then have them every 15-20 days)…

Don’t do this for ‘long term’… So go for 2-3 cycles then get back to a sensible routine so you maintain your results and don’t metabolically crash.

When Refeeding > Over-eating and Fat v. Carbs

People often think that if they ‘eat lots of carbs’ they will get fat… In fact, this is usually very hard to do…. When overeating carbs, and depending on the person, you get a myriad of different bodily reactions:

  • thermogenesis
  • increased ANS activity
  • increased cellular metabolic processes
  • increased spontaneous movement
  • glycogen storage
  • fat storage (esp in those who are insulin resistant or of a thrifty genotype)

So you can see that there are lots of metabolic processes that share the ‘carb’ energy with the fat cells missing out much more. Carbs also have the excellent benefit of triggering things that help keep your metabolic clock ‘ticking’ during a diet , eg leptin and brain insulin levels etc . This is why strategic (well placed/timed) carb refeeds help in weight loss diets.

When over eating fats, as it is poorly thermogenic and doesn’t require a lot of processing to be stored, most of those calories end up in fat cells, eg: fat tissue, in muscle, in organs, in your abdomen, visceral fat etc.

BUT NOTE: ‘fat feeding’ CAN be useful at particular times eg: junk loading the night before a competition (fats AND carbs ) – this can increase intramuscular triglyceride stores which means lovely ‘plump’ muscles for stage the next day.